5 items from 2015
“Who’s zoomin’ who?” asked Aretha Franklin in her 1985 hit of the same name — and while the song doesn’t feature amid the film’s cooler musical selections, it summarizes the key dramatic question of “Zoom.” A spirited if spotty solo debut for Brazilian helmer Pedro Morelli, this breathless trifle triangulates the personal and creative crises of an insecure comic-book artist, a cocksure filmmaker and an aspiring novelist — with the considerable high-concept twist that each of the three is living a narrative created by one of the others. Morelli and tyro scribe Matt Hansen unpack this Charlie Kaufman-lite premise with more cleverness than wit, struggling particularly to find the right racy tone for various erotic interludes — but the part-toon pic’s neatly collapsing structure and pop-art flourishes ensure it’s never dull. The (literally) animated presence of Gael Garcia Bernal adds a sales hook, but “Zoom” will do its zippiest biz in VOD. »
- Guy Lodge
A new clip from the upcoming comedy Zoom has arrived online, and you can view it in the player below…
Alison Pill (The Newsroom) stars in the film as Emma, a factory worker by day and comic book artist by night. She soon comes across an idea to try to make a career making sex dolls, despite the fact that she could get fired for such things. Her novelist friend Michelle (Mariana Ximenes) trys to find a way to help her.
“A cartoonist draws a comic book about a filmmaker, who shoots a film about a novelist, who writes a book about a cartoonist. In three interwoven stories, ‘Zoom’ dives into a world of art and sex that sustains both pursuits — along with a sense of unfettered id.”
- Scott J. Davis
I recently sat down with director Isabel Coixet, and actors Patricia Clarkson and Sarita Choudhury at the Crosby Hotel in New York City, to discuss their new film "Learning to Drive." The film, written by Sarah Kernochan, is based on the autobiographical New Yorker short story by Katha Pollit, a long-time political columnist for the Nation.
Wendy is a fiery Manhattan author whose husband has just left her for a younger woman; Darwan is a soft-spoken taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage. As Wendy sets out to reclaim her independence, she runs into a barrier common to many lifelong New Yorkers: she’s never learned to drive. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her, her unraveling life and his calm restraint seem like an awkward fit. But as he shows her how to take control of the wheel, and she coaches him on how to impress a woman, their unlikely friendship awakens them to the joy, humor, and love in starting life anew.
Isabel Coixet’s award-winning film credits include "Demaisiado viejo para morir joven," "Things I Never Told You,""My Life Without Me," "The Secret Life of Words," "Paris, je t’aime," "Elegy," "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," "Yesterday Never Ends," "Another Me," "Nobody Wants the Night," as well as documentaries, including "Invisibles."
Currently, Sarita Choudhury can be seen on Showtime’s "Homeland." Her film credits include "Admission," "Gayby," "Midnight’s Children," "Generation Um…," "Entre Nos," "The Accidental Husband," "Lady in the Water," "The War Within," "Mississippi Masala," "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love," "She Hate Me," "Just a Kiss," "Wild West," "High Art," "The House of the Spirits," "Gloria," and "A Perfect Murder."
Isabel Coixet: We started talking about making this film with Patricia and Ben Kingsley when we were making "Elegy" (directed by Coixet, starring Clarkson and Kingsley) and we got along very well and we wanted to make another film together. Patricia discovered the short story by Katha Pollit, and she gave it to me and I thought it was wonderful. And then we got the screenwriter Sarah Kernocha involved. The film is a comedy but not a classical comedy. It was a very difficult film to pitch because you know financiers and producers want something they can put in one box and you can’t with this film. It was a long process. It took nine years.
Some Words Unspoken and the Intimacy of the Camera
Isabel Coixet: There is always this romantic feeling underneath [subtext], I think there is that possibility. You have to be true to your words. If they are true, you will have to stick to your words.
Sarita Choudhury: That’s what happens with people you meet. No you were my inspiration don’t make me your inspiration.
Sarita Choudhury: I had so few words in the film. In a way, I kept the words because I had to know not to say them. For us the script -- the situational was also in the script; the languidness. It was because Isabel holds the camera. There was a pace created to it. When you’re acting you can feel where the camera is, but when the camera is at the end of Isabel’s hand and she’s moving it, it almost creates an intimacy between you and the camera, and you and the actor. There’s a pace you normally don’t get in film. You didn’t know when she was on your face; you had to keep acting like acting in the theatre.
On The Lack of Women Directors
Isabel Coixet: There are so many articles about it. I’m always afraid to play the victim, to complain too much. I know there is an inequity with men and women directors. This is an issue in the world. I always say, (Coixet smiles) we have to ask for more salary to make up for all these years and maybe if we ask for more they’ll give us the same as a man.
I want to put my words where my mouth is by producing female directors; they are amazing talented people. I’m producing three short films and a feature documentary. That’s what I do.
Sarita Choudhury: I just did a young woman’s short film; there is something about her that’s brilliant. I’ve done two short films. I can’t change the caste system and I can’t do the voluntary work I need to be doing. Film is no different from the world, like Isabel said. That’s our work, to get every woman involved. And if a man is brilliant, let him in too.
I then asked Patricia Clarkson about her involvement with "Learning to Drive."
Academy Award® nominee and Emmy Award-winning actress, Patricia Clarkson, has worked extensively in independent films. The National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics named her Best Supporting Actress of the Year for "Pieces of April" and "The Station Agent." Her many film credits include "The Maze Runner," "Last Weekend," "Friends With Benefits," "One Day," "Easy A," "Shutter Island," "Vicky Christina Barcelona," "Elegy," "No Reservations," "All the Kings’ Men," "Lars and the Real Girl, and "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Susan Kouguell: What attracted you to the project?
Patricia Clarkson: I loved the Katha Pollit story in The New Yorker; it serendipitously came to me. I love Wendy, I love this character. I was nine years younger at the time, but I still felt I knew her. I was relentless trying to get this film made with producer Dana Friedman. I found it an equal dose of funny and tragic. I liked the almost commedia dell'arte aspect; this absurd situation and finding the tragic comedy. A woman who is brilliant who lives a great life -- she has everything, but “forgets to look up,” and then meets a man who has experienced tragic loss. They have disparate worlds. I found it a quintessential New York story, but it’s also universal. It’s an independent film, but it’s not independently-minded.
Some Final Words
The disparate worlds about which Clarkson refers to in regard to her character, Wendy’s relationship with Darwan [Ben Kingsley] -- the life of a financially successful New Yorker compared to the immigrant’s struggle, was a thematic element that I further discussed with Coixet and Choudhury. As Choudhury said to me, Coixet’s visual choices of her character, such as the moment when she watches feet walk by her basement apartment window, feeling trapped, underscore the poignancy of this fish-out-of-water situation. Coixet captures these elements with a delicate balance of both drama and comedy.
It was an inspiring morning to speak with these three powerful and talented women, who are committed to sharing their knowledge with the next generation of female filmmakers.
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College Suny, and presents international seminars on screenwriting and film. Author of Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays! and The Savvy Screenwriter, she is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide. www.su-city-pictures.com, http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog »
- Susan Kouguell
Brazil’s economy is languishing, hit by plunging commodity prices. Since last year’s Cannes, the real has depreciated 36% against the dollar, hitting film imports hard. And thanks to preparations for 2016’s budget-busting Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Rio’s regional movie funding has dwindled.
So does 2015’s Cannes catch the Brazilian industry in retreat? Not at all.
Muscular state coin is still in place — last July, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced a 1.2 billion real ($397 million) package of film-tv incentives. Total Brazilian box office, including U.S. movies, powered up 11.7% in 2014 to $744.7 million, according to Filme B.
Requiring cable channels to air 3.5 hours of primetime Brazilian content weekly, 2011’s Law 12,485 has galvanized indie TV production levels. Brazil’s pay TV homes grew 6% year-on-year to 27.3 million in 2014, per the Business Bureau.
In domestic, the major market trend is robust diversification. Once largely known abroad for arthouse movies, top outfits have initiated blockbuster franchise production (Gullane, »
- John Hopewell
Underscoring the rapid consolidation of top-echelon Brazilian producers as diversified multi-project film-tv production houses, Sao Paulo’s o2 Filmes, whose credits include Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God” and “The Constant Gardner” and Stephen Daldry’s “Trash,” has eight TV fiction dramas in development, including half hour comedy “The Friends of My Baby” and the corruption-themed “Matriarca.”
Meirelles began his career working in TV. But the size of O2 Filmes’ current development slate suggests that Brazil’s top companies are taking the opportunities for TV production based out of Brazil very seriously indeed.
In early development, “The Friends of My Baby” is a comedy about a single father and a baby. Gnt, Brazil’s most prominent femme-targeting cable TV channel and one of the jewels in the crown of Globosat, Globo’s giant pay TV operator, has acquired Brazilian rights.
“Matriarca” is a “dark humored” fiction drama about Brazil’s political classes and corruption, »
- John Hopewell
5 items from 2015
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